Freeze branding is a technique used to mark (or brand) livestock. It is an alternative to the basic hot iron branding.
Freeze branding is said to cause less pain for the animal and also results in a different colored brand- white hair grow back in the brand area with this technique whereas only the bare, burnt hide remains with hot branding.
It also is beneficial because the brand is visible in all climates all year long. Hair growth and increased “wooliness” won’t hinder the visibility of the brand.
What You’ll Need
Freeze branding requires these tools:
liquid nitrogen (- 300F) or dry ice
90-95% alcohol *(see note below)
time tracking device
Note: Rubbing alcohol is a much lower concentration. (50-70%) I use a technique called “salting out” to remove water from the alcohol. Add a large amount of salt to a jar and pour in the rubbing alcohol. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes. The salt will cause the alcohol and the water to separate in the jar. With a syringe or baster, skim off the concentrated alcohol from the top of the jar.
We keep our liquid nitrogen in a semen tank until we’re ready to begin and then dump it into a cooler. A towel or cooler lid will keep it from evaporating too quickly.
Tip: Use a Styrofoam cooler; a plastic one will crack.
Above, Crayton clips the area before we clean it with alcohol.
It takes a full crew to get the job done correctly. Normally the horses will stand because it doesn’t cause immediate discomfort, however we want to insure that they won’t move. We don’t want a fuzzy, undefined or partial brand.
Casey holds the freeze branding iron steady with consistent pressure (approximately 45lbs) while we monitor the timer. Depending on the horse, we’ve found that 35-45 seconds works the best.
Here is a photo of Cola with his 2 month old freeze brand. It has a defined outline and the white hair has already started to grow in.
Hot Iron Branding isn’t all Bad
Hot branding has it’s place and purpose. It creates immediate results and doesn’t require as much preparation.
Here’s Garrett hold a calf while it gets hot iron branded.